Can teens find solutions to issues like vaping? Vermont showed they can. Other states may follow.

A Vermont initiative addressing youth risky behavior could be implemented in school districts across the U.S. because of its new, national designation.

The Getting to Y (GTY) program received a “Best Practice” national designation by the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs. A panel of public health and child and adolescent health experts award the title to programs “‘that have been extensively evaluated and proven effective,'” according to a news release from UP for Learning, the parent organization of Getting to Y. 

Sharon Koller, Coordinator for the Getting to Y program, helps U-32 Middle and High School students brainstorm ways to help their peers with issues they face.

“These recognitions came after thorough review of the theoretical underpinnings, practice implementation, and outcome data of GTY and are strong affirmations of the impact and importance of the program in promoting the health and well-being of young people,” said Sharon Koller, GTY Coordinator.

In the program, middle and high school groups evaluate data from their school’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey and come up with solutions to address some of the issues the survey revealed.

Lillian Sorrell (8th grade), Olivia Fournier (8th grade), Aurelia Farnum (8th grade) and Edith Lane (7th grade) discuss solutions to issues faced by students at U-32 Middle & High School through the Getting to Y program.

The Free Press attended a GTY meeting at U-32 High School in January where students were coming up with ways to address dating violence, alcohol access and vaping.

In the initiative, students are the drivers of change but are supported by adults who guide them and direct them to resources which can aid growth in challenging areas. It’s a way for youth and adults to tackle tough issues together, and one that gives teens a voice in implementation.

“I think students are often the people being acted upon in ways they can oftentimes not have their voice heard,” said Townes DeGroot, a U-32 junior, in the February 2020 Free Press article. “I think this is a really great opportunity for students to express what their needs are and their unique and important ideas on how to address them.” 

More:‘Together we’re much stronger’: VT student group helps peers solve vaping, violence issues

Cara Richardson (9th grade), Cole Heigis (11th grade) and Arthur Larose (11th grade) of U-32 Middle & High School take part in solving issues the student body faces through the Getting to Y program.

The national Best Practice designation allows schools to seek funding in order to implement the GTY program within their own districts. As of February 2020, a couple schools in New Mexico had already adopted the Vermont program for their students.

“This is an extraordinary designation as it gives UP for Learning the opportunity to share our program, which centers youth voice, at the national level, reaching schools and organizations that want a proven tool to engage young people in the health and well-being of their peers and their communities,” said Lindsey Halman, UP for Learning’s Executive Director.

In addition the national title, the Vermont Department of Health also recognized GTY an “Evidence-based Practice.” 

Contact April Barton at abarton@freepressmedia.com or 802-660-1854. Follow her on Twitter @aprildbarton.

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